ZD1839 ("Iressa") is an orally active, selective epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitor. We evaluated the antitumor activity of ZD1839 in combination with HSP90 antagonist, 17-AAG in malignant human glioma cell lines. ZD1839 independently produced a dose-dependent inhibition of cellular proliferation in glioma cells grown in culture with time- and dose-dependent accumulation of cells in G(1) phase of the cell cycle on flow cytometric analysis, although the concentrations required for optimal efficacy were at or above the limits of clinically achievable levels. Because the heat shock protein (HSP) is involved in the conformational maturation of a number of signaling proteins critical to the proliferation of malignant glioma cells, we hypothesized that the HSP90 inhibitor 17-AAG would potentiate ZD 1839-mediated glioma cytotoxicity by decreasing the activation status of EGF receptor, as well as down regulating the levels of other relevant signaling effectors. We, therefore, examined the effects of ZD1839 and 17-AAG, alone and in combination, on signal transduction and apoptosis in a series of malignant glioma cell lines. Simultaneous exposure to these inhibitors significantly induced cell death and quantitative analysis revealed that interaction between ZD1839 and 17-AAG-induced cytotoxicity was synergistic, leading to a pronounced increase in active caspase-3 and PARP cleavage. No significant growth inhibition or caspase activation was seen in control cells. The enhanced cytotoxicity of this combination was associated with diminished Akt activation and a significant downregulation of EGFR receptor, Raf-1 and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK). Cells exposed to 17-AAG and ZD1839 displayed a significant reduction in cell cycle regulatory proteins, such as CDK4 and CDK6. Taken together, these findings suggest that ZD1839, an EGF receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, plays a critical role in regulating the apoptotic response to 17-AAG and that multi-site targeting of growth signaling and cell survival pathways could provide a potent strategy to treat patients with malignant gliomas.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.